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The camp left in me

Senior shares her experiences at Camp Ozark

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Story by Anna Graves, print co-editor in chief

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Everyone loves summer. Go to the beach for a week, soak up the sun and get away from the “real world” for a little while. Pack up your bags, grab a tent and go camping for a few days to “disconnect”. It’s an escape. But to me, these ordinary vacations are far from my idea of an escape.

For seven years now, I have spent one or two weeks of my summer in the mountains of Arkansas at my favorite place in the world: The Incomparable Camp Ozark. No air conditioner. No phones. No contact to the outside world. Nothing but steep hills, carefree dancing, one piece bathing suits and some of my best friends.

When I was 11, a first year camper, the camp life seemed a bit confusing at first. Everyone was smiling. There was never a dull moment. Why was everyone so happy? Did they forget the fact that it was 100 degrees and that we had been up since the crack of dawn and that they had absolutely no way of contacting anyone outside of this camp including their parents?  What was the big deal? How come no one else was homesick like me? What made this “incomparable” camp so incomparable?

It took about two days for this confusion to wear off. Soon I realized that Camp Ozark was a place where I could have fun all of the time with new friends that I had made in a matter of minutes. As I got older, camp became an escape from stupid middle school drama and a place where I could spend my days dancing on tables during meals and making endless bracelets in the craft shed

As a high schooler, Ozark gave me the same gifts it always had. I still had constant fun, made new best friends, danced on the tables of the chow hall and spent hours in the craft shed.

But in my final years, I realized camp was more than just two weeks of fun where I could wear animal shirts and not worry about how my hair looked.

As I got older, the morning games of Tribal Competition became more than just another fun part of camp. Sure, maybe it’s just a silly game. But these games have taught me to always give maximum effort and have enthusiasm and sportsmanship in everything I do. That is a lesson I could never take for granted.

As I got older, the absence of phones became one of the best parts of camp. Being disconnected from the rest of the world was what created a true escape and what allowed me to make such good friends in such little time.

As I got older, I realized that camp was the main foundation of my faith. Camp allowed me to make my religion my own, and it taught me to understand that everything happens for a reason.

As I got older, I realized that it wasn’t happiness that filled Camp Ozark. It was joy. And as I got older I realized the difference between the two. Camp Ozark was filled with people who had a permanent joy about life. Happiness can fade, but the people that were leaders at Camp Ozark had a joy that could not be broken.

As I got older and my days at camp came to a close, I realized that now I was on my own. If I wanted to give maximum effort, if I wanted to put God first, others second and myself third, if I wanted to live like camp had taught me and have that “Camp Ozark joy” for the rest of my life, it was up to me.

I will never again be a camper at Camp Ozark. But as I walked out of camp for the last time, tears rolling down, I realized that Ozark was no longer just a summer escape for me. Camp made me who I am and showed me who I wanted to be. I could never forget the values and lessons that camp taught me or the great friends that it gave me.

As I get older, I hope that I will never forget my years as a camper. As I get older, I hope that even as some memories fade away, Camp Ozark will forever be a part of my life and a part of my heart. As I am getting older, I know that Camp Ozark has definitely changed my life and me for the better.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “The camp left in me”

  1. Betsy Hurst on August 26th, 2015 9:53 am

    Anna,
    You don’t have to leave Camp Ozark. Return as a counselor! My daughter has worked there through all her college summers. Best summers of her life! Thank you for your heartfelt writing.
    Betsy Hurst

    [Reply]

  2. Tammy Stanfill on August 26th, 2015 4:06 pm

    Anna,
    You have a gift for writing! Our family has been connected to camp Ozark for 17 summers now, with kids as campers or counselors. This story really hit home for us. I wish all kids could realize the value of disconnecting from social media and connecting with each other. I truly loved all the points you laid out from escape, to faith, to joy, to maximum effort, to F. I. T. I remember 17 years ago hearing Sam Torn talk about First is Third. It still resonates with me. Best wishes as you begin your new life phase. Something tells me you are going to be just fine.

    [Reply]

  3. Chuck RUEDEBUSCH sr on June 22nd, 2016 11:51 am

    Just a grandpa thinking about sending twin grandsons to a camp some place. How do I get more info and cost data. Does the cost decrease with more weeks? Tks Chuck 314-706-4684

    [Reply]

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